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Repeated exposure to severely limited sleep results in distinctive and persistent physiological imbalances in rats. PLoS One 2011;6(8):e22987



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Scopus ID

2-s2.0-80051644490   31 Citations


Chronic sleep disruption in laboratory rats leads to increased energy expenditure, connective tissue abnormalities, and increased weights of major organs relative to body weight. Here we report on expanded findings and the extent to which abnormalities become long-lasting, potentially permanent changes to health status after apparent recuperation from chronic sleep disruption. Rats were exposed 6 times to long periods of disrupted sleep or control conditions during 10 weeks to produce adaptations and then were permitted nearly 4 months of undisturbed sleep. Measurements were made in tissues from these groups and in preserved tissue from the experimental and control groups of an antecedent study that lacked a lengthy recuperation period. Cycles of sleep restriction resulted in energy deficiency marked by a progressive course of hyperphagia and major (15%) weight loss. Analyses of tissue composition in chronically sleep-restricted rats indicated that protein and lipid amounts in internal organs were largely spared, while adipose tissue depots appeared depleted. This suggests high metabolic demands may have preserved the size of the vital organs relative to expectations of severe energy deficiency alone. Low plasma corticosterone and leptin concentrations appear to reflect low substrate availability and diminished adiposity. After nearly 4 months of recuperation, sleep-restricted rats were consuming 20% more food and 35% more water than did comparison control rats, despite normalized weight, normalized adipocytes, and elevated plasma leptin concentrations. Plasma cholesterol levels in recuperated sleep-restricted rats were diminished relative to those of controls. The chronically increased intake of nutriments and water, along with altered negative feedback regulation and substrate use, indicate that internal processes are modified long after a severe period of prolonged and insufficient sleep has ended.

Author List

Everson CA, Szabo A


Carol A. Everson PhD Professor in the Medicine department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Aniko Szabo PhD Professor in the Institute for Health and Equity department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Body Weight
Connective Tissue
Feeding Behavior
Intestine, Small
Rats, Sprague-Dawley
Sleep Deprivation
jenkins-FCD Prod-482 91ad8a360b6da540234915ea01ff80e38bfdb40a